Earliest Christian Beliefs Predate

Oral transmissions and confessions of faith within the Christian Scriptures predate the text. These transmissions and confessions authenticate the original faith in Jesus Christ. For instance, 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 records a very early creedal confession and transmission from those who lived with Jesus. From this text, the Gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ dates to the beginning of the church (cf. Gal 1:11–2:10). The confirmation of these earliest Christian beliefs are monumental to history.

The New Testament Scriptures reveal how central confessions of faith are to the Christian faith from the beginning. Paul wrote, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). The Gospel of Matthew records, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,” (Matt 10:32 ESV; cf. Luke 12:8). Philippians 2 records one of the early Christian traditions of the inevitable confession, “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). The first epistle of John states, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). The same epistle also records, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15).

The following includes oral transmission of the earliest Christian beliefs that predate the New Testament from within the text:

The Gospel

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (ESV).
  • Romans 4:24–25, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (cf. Rom 1:1–4).

Confessions of the Gospel

  • Romans 10:9–10, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
  • Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Doxology

  • 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Early Christian Tradition

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23–26, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Early Christian Blessing

  • 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Evangelist Confessions of Faith

  • Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
  • John 1:49, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
  • John 6:68–69, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
  • John 11:27, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
  • John 20:28, “My Lord and my God!”

Evangelist Tradition

  • Luke 24:19–24, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Evangelist Commission

  • Matthew 28:18–20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Evangelist Hymns

  • Luke 1:46–55, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (cf. Luke 1:68–79).
  • Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Evangelist Blessing

  • Luke 2:29–32, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Early Christian Confession of Faith

  • Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Early Christian Prayer

  • Acts 4:24b–30, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Pauline Confessions of Faith

  • Ephesians 5:14, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
  • Philippians 2:6–11, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Pauline Hymn

  • Colossians 1:15–20, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (cf. Col 2:8–15).

Petrine Confessions of Faith

  • 1 Peter 2:22–25, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
  • 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

Johannine Confessions of Faith

  • 1 John 2:12–14, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
  • 1 John 4:2, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”
  • 1 John 4:15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Pauline Doxologies

  • Ephesians 3:20–21, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (cf. Heb 1:1–4).
  • 1 Timothy 1:15–17, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:5–6, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
  • 1 Timothy 3:16, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:9–10, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
  • 1 Timothy 6:13–16, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:11–13, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself” (cf. 2 Tim 2:8).

 

Luke-Acts Sermons: Acts 2; 13

Apocalyptic Confessions: Rev 4:11; 7:12

Apocalyptic Hymns: Rev 5:9–10; 5:12; 5:13; 15:3–4; 19:6–8